Medical Spanish Commands: Getting the Imperative Right in a Medical Setting
Ever found yourself fumbling for the right way to tell your Spanish-speaking patients to do something, and end up using the present tense verb conjugation? Good news! Forming the imperative (Spanish command form) of verbs is easy – especially in the Usted form, which is the most appropriate pronoun to use with your patients. It’s not rude to use a command with your patients, but be sure to include “por favor” at the end to soften the command.
Forming Formal Spanish Commands
We’ll demonstrate with LLAMAR (to call) & DORMIR (to sleep):
1) Form the present tense YO form of the verb: llamo & duermo
2) Take off the “o” ending: llam & duerm
3) Replace the “o” with the “wrong” vowel (“a” for verbs ending in -er/ir and “e” for verbs ending in -ar):
llame (Ud.) or llamen (Uds.)
Llame al doctor si tiene efectos secundarios. (Call the doctor if you have side effects.)
duerma (Ud.) or duerman (Uds.)
Duerma por lo menos ocho horas cada noche. (Sleep at least eight hours per night.)
This rule works for most irregular verbs (i.e. HACER > Haga, TENER > Tenga, VENIR > Venga), but there are a few exceptions.
Negative Formal Commands
Forming negative formal Spanish commands is as easy as adding “No” before the formal command:
No coma antes de la cirugía, por favor. = Please do not eat before the surgery.
No tome más que seis pastillas en veinte cuatro horas, por favor. = Please do n take more than six pills in tweotnty-four hours.